Fancy spending a vacation on an island, which retains its full natural, alluring beauty, even in this modern day and age? Or perhaps you’d enjoy taking a dip in seawater as clear as can be? Well, surrounded by the Aegean Sea, roughly 200km off the south-eastern coast of Greece, lies the little-known Greek island sanctuary of Santorini.
Despite having been voted the top island destination by tourists several times, Santorini remains a largely unfamiliar haven for many a traveller, which is such a shame considering what the island has to offer. From mouth-watering local Greek delicacies to pristine beaches, uniquely beautiful scenery and unforgettable cultural and geographical experiences, it is safe to say that Santorini has it all.
While the island is beautiful all year round, the best time to visit Santorini is during summer (between early May and late July) when the island bathes in the sweet summer sun.
Be whisked away by the majestic scenery of Oia
The main attraction of Santorini would be the little town of Oia (pronounced EE-ah) located on the northern side of the island. The beautiful white-painted houses of Oia are very much the mascots of Santorini and are often the first images that appear when ‘Santorini’ is run through an online search engine.
Built on a steep slope overlooking the Aegean Sea and housing several museums (most of which offer free entry), souvenir shops, eateries and even guest accommodation, Oia is an intricate labyrinth of narrow stairs and breathtaking scenery.
Upon entering Oia, you will find yourself at what is known as the town square at the very top of Oia. Make your way to the edge and you will be greeted by a surreal view of the Aegean, complemented with the white-painted houses of the town. The blend of artistry between nature and man-made beauty would seem almost impossible to fathom and the only true way to do the sight justice is to see it with one’s own eyes.
Treat yourself to a feast of the freshest seafood!
Situated at the foot of Oia is the humble but busy harbour of Amoudi Bay. Despite its size, it is famous for the many taverns, which serve freshly caught seafood along with an assortment of the best Greek dishes Santorini has to offer.
One way to fully enjoy the food on a budget is to order a sharing platter which generally costs between 15 to -20 EUR (16.90 USD - 22.60 USD) and feeds two. One particular eatery that is highly recommended is the family-run Sunset Taverna, which offers mouth-watering delights and wonderful ambience, allowing its patrons to sit at the edge of the barbour, right next to the Aegean ocean, promising a meal filled with good food and even better scenery. Perfect for couples on a romantic getaway!
Catch the sunset at Amoudi Bay, another sight not to be missed!
Apart from that, another activity which is highly recommended in Oia is to catch the sunset from Amoudi Bay. However, if you visit Santorini during the summer, it would mean having to wait until about 8 p.m. local time to catch this awe-inspiring sight, so patience is strongly advised.
Indeed, some might even find that the hike down to Amoudi Bay from Oia itself to be taxing. For those who wish to make a beeline from the town square all the way to the bay, it would take between 20 to 30 minutes. (Be careful though, some of the pathways can be a little bit slippery). If you wish to admire the sights of Oia as you make your way down, however, it could take you up to two hours (or more!) to get to the bay but of course, for those who persist, they shall be treated to an experience they shall never forget!
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Take a stroll around an active volcano!
Another unique attraction to be found in Santorini is the opportunity to visit an active volcano! Don’t worry, the last time it erupted was 3,600 years ago!
This is considered another one of the must-do activities when one visits Santorini and many of the tour packages hoteliers recommend guests involve visiting the old volcano, unofficially known as the Nea Kameni volcano.
A typical tour involves a hike to the top of the volcano, a walk around the crater and a chance to take a dip in the therapeutic hot springs located on the island of the volcano, all in the accompaniment of a friendly local tour guide. While a typical tour package costs around 80 EUR (91 USD) per person, it is possible to get better deals by asking the helpful hoteliers to make a booking for you.
Soak in the island atmosphere at a beach. But which one?
Like any island vacation hotspot, Santorini offers an array of pristine beaches for travellers to relax and unwind. Truth be told, however, there is ONE problem with the beaches in Santorini: deciding which to choose when you find yourself short on time and unable to visit all of them.
Unlike most beaches around the world, which feature flowing white or red sand, the beaches on Santorini have black sand as a result of volcanic activities in the past. Because of this, the sand can get blisteringly hot during noon, so make sure to pack a pair of beach sandals if you plan on spending a day (or a few) at the beach.
Out of all the wonderful beaches on Santorini, Perissa Beach is among one of the best and most recommended by locals. It features a classic beach shack, which serves appetising snacks and crisp, ice-cold beer and the beach itself is surrounded by rocky mountains, adding a mystical feel to the place. Another draw of Perissa is the truly crystal clear water of the ocean.
Walk as far out as you can (be careful of the tide!) and you will see that no matter how far into the ocean you’ve ventured, you would still be able to clearly see your feet in the water! But how do you get to Perissa Beach? Don’t worry, I’ve got the answer to that!
Getting around in Santorini
The three main modes of transport on Santorini are: walking, public transport (buses) and ATV quad bikes, out of which the best option is public transport.
While walking is a perfectly manageable way to get about on the island, in order to reach destinations such as Oia and Perissa Beach, it is best to take a bus from Fira, which is the town centre and the main public transport pick up/drop off point of the island
During the summer, there are buses available every half an hour to a variety of locations with the average fare being between 1.60 - 3.20 EUR (between 1.80 - 3.60 USD). You may also rent an ATV quad bike at an average of 30 EUR (a little less than 35 USD) per 24-hour (prices vary depending on season) but you would need to be over the age of 18 and possess a driver’s license.
That being said, don’t be afraid to take a leisurely stroll around Santorini despite the hot summer climate. The constant sea breeze around the island does well to alleviate the hot weather!
The perfect getaway for all ages
Santorini delivers an island getaway experience, which is difficult (if ever possible) to forget. Its laidback and tranquil setting, coupled with the artistry of its natural scenery, make Santorini (in this traveller’s humble opinion) a perfect destination for all types of travellers across all ages.
The romantic atmosphere of the island, especially at night, makes it an even more enticing place for couples and newlyweds on their honeymoon!
So the next time you’re in the mood for an island getaway,take a chance with this little gem of an island called Santorini.
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